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Can we talk about personnel?

A lot of people, including us, like to talk about how radio must reinvent itself.  There are numerous strategies and even more tactics, but “the human element” is most critical to The New Radio Model.

To reinvent radio with a new business model, does radio have the people?  And I’m not just talking about the minions and worker-bees here, it starts at the top.

Bankers and equity players will often tell you that “we bet on the team.”  So as groups tumble toward bankruptcy, the conventional wisdom is to stick with that management team.  The thinking goes that most groups’ problems are primarily the result of the economy.

Not so fast.  If when the economy recovers, the media landscape will be changed forever. There will be no “getting back to normal.”

For banks and investors to get as much of their money back as possible, they’ll need to do a very frank examination of whether or not their team really has what it takes to innovate – from an organizational culture, new media, content, and operational standpoint.  Does the team really understand what is required to produce Hyper-Local content with an unyielding local focus?  Are they experienced in creating Multiplatform delivery and revenue streams? 

We recently reviewed the corporate structure of group with stations in five markets.  How many VP and above level employees were on the roster?  Would you believe 15?  Was there a VP of new media?  No.  How many VPs were related to content?  Just two.

Point is, management teams that are solely sales-centric will not make it out of the woods, and the bankers need to know this.  Even worse, management teams who believe this is just about reinventing the radio wheel will continue to cost their investors millions of dollars until the New Radio Model is implemented.  It’s very likely that, people new to radio will be required to move in new directions with new results.  We’re back to R&D time in radio, not just with the product and the new business model, but with PEOPLE.  Savvy investors understand this is not a quick turnaround, and definitely not a return to the “old normal.”

One of Google’s 9 Theorems of Innovation is: “If You’re Brilliant, We’re Hiring.”

Has radio walked that walk lately?  Not at all.  With few exceptions, radio is very resistant to change, with an almost cultural resistance to change.  Innovative managers and talent have been largely sent packing in favor of a circling of the wagons.

Attitudes need to change. The banks and private investors need to take a hard look at what they’ve got, and realize that they might not have the right management team on the field. 

Smart managers know that the worker-bees need to change, too.  The fantasy of working middays as a living is over.  Talent needs to transform themselves into more valuable utility players by updating their skills to multiplatform producer status.

In a recent article in Fast Company, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos tells us that there are two ways to grow a business:

  1. Take inventory of what you’re good at and extend out from your skills, or, in the case of the Kindle,
  2. Determine what your customers need and work backward, even if it means learning new skills.

From existing general managers to announcers, number two is the key to radio’s revival.  If they can’t re-engineer their skills to The New Radio Model, and quickly, then new managers and talent who “get it” will quickly fill their spots.

Paul Marszalek
Managing Partner, Media Mechanics
Member of The Radio Workout Team